Peugeot Sport will enter two diesel fuelled 908 HDI FAP coupes in this week's 12 Hours of Sebring. However, the team say while a win the historic race would be “great” their entry is primarily as preparation for the defence of their Le Mans 24 Hours crown.
“A victory would be a great way for Team Peugeot Total to the kick off the new season,” but concedes Peugeot Sport director Olivier Quesnel. “”Le Mans is our main objective, so not only does that dictate running a certain number of test sessions, but it also entails taking part in selected races, such as Sebring, in order to put the team in a stress situation and prepare the drivers for the demanding challenge ahead.”
The pair of Peugeots, which will debut in their new livery at the race, have to be pre-race favourites for the race especially as Audi, their main rivals in endurance racing, have (to quote Peugeot) “chosen” to develop their 'R15-plus' diesel away from Sebring this year.
Indeed to further development of the 908 for the season ahead the French squad will remain at Sebring for two days after the race for a further two days of testing.
Technical Director Bruno Famin explains why an entry at the 3.7 mile circuit draped over Sebring's regional airport.
“Contesting the 12 Hours of Sebring has three major advantages for us. To begin with, the temperature is likely to be between 25 and 30°C, which is very similar to what we can expect at Le Mans in June. Sebring serves as first class training, too, with regard to race strategy; there are generally a high number of safety car interventions and the amount of traffic on the track can be likened to Le Mans.”
“Last but not least,” Famin concludes. “Sebring is the year’s longest race after Le Mans. It tends not to push the engines too hard, but the suspension faces a gruelling test because the surface is so uneven. Sebring provides us with an opportunity to explore the limits of certain mechanical components.”
“If what we see calls for modifications, we will have sufficient time to make amends before Le Mansâ€¦ where we have no intention of taking any risks at all!”
Sebring will also see the Peugeot debut of the team's new signing, Anthony Davidson. Davidson will share the no.07 car with Marc Gene and Alexander Wurz, crucially introducing the Briton to the car and the driving teammates he will have at Le Mans, where the trio will pilot the no.1 car.
Nicolas Minassian, Pedro Lamy and Sebastien Bourdais will share the no.8 car at Sebring.